A mysterious homeless man learns that a convicted double-murderer is being released from prison. Wordlessly, but with determination, he begins a plot to assassinate the murderer. Little does he know that his decision will start a chain of vengeance that will spiral rapidly out of his control.
The revenge thriller is a classic genre for edgy cinema. The murky morality, the conflict, the likelihood of violence all mean it is ideally suited. But where Blue Ruin differs is how it approaches its subject matter and the nature of its protagonist.
Dwight (Macon Blair) is a man with seemingly nothing to lose. He is awkward, he is lost, he is alone. But over the course of his mission of vengeance he is forced to figure out what is really valuable, how to survive and how to fight.
Tonally, the movie is resolutely low-key. The first part, as Dwight first sets off on his quest, is almost completely dialogue-free. It gives the movie a vaguely dreamlike, otherworldly feel. The atmosphere sticks around and it always feels like the events play out just around the corner from normal society. Just behind the closed doors or down the back road never taken.
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier uses this sensibility to its fullest. Dwight’s circumstances become almost beyond reality, almost existential in their grimy detail. When Dwight searches out an old school friend to get hold of a gun, he asks his friend if he has ever killed anybody. “Two. On purpose,” is the response.
The biggest strength of the film is its pacing. Scenes play out slowly and carefully, ratcheting the screws on the audience all the time. As Dwight waits in a house, unsure if anyone is coming after him, he slips between wakefulness and sleep and the tension grows and grows.
Blue Ruin maximizes its low budget, focusing on scenes between only a couple of characters, or even Dwight alone. Like a meditation on the destructive nature of all violence, the film spirals from twist to twist, but ever down into deeper darkness.
A superb indie flick, this is worth seeking out.
The only features present are the usual selection of trailers.
Blue Ruin is available on DVD from Madman Entertainment.